“No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, no comfortable feel in any member. No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, no fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds. November!”
So wrote English poet and humorist Thomas Hood in No! and if one was unaware that he died in 1845, one might assume he was writing about the scene being played out before me. Ensconced in the pizza-scented student lounge at COM, I am audience to a veritable grand kabuki of emotional strife in the academe.
For the uninitiated, kabuki is a highly stylized dance drama characteristic of feudal Japan in which actors wear lots of makeup and make frantic noises and gesticulations to convey a story to the audience. Indeed, closely related to the word kabuki is the word kabukimono, used in reference to those who were bizarrely dressed and swaggered in the street, a foreshadowing of the vast majority of the student population of most institutions of higher learning.
Thus, in my role as amateur campus sociologist (so far more successful than my previous role as amateur campus surgeon) I am able to remain a sober observant of the metamorphosis undergone by various campus rituals as each semester progresses. And as I write this now, both my fellow COM enrollees and I are in the pieris rapae pupa stage, on the verge of becoming either a pieris rapea adult or a permanent houseguest at Neville Manor.
You see, much like a production of Kanjincho, all COM students finish out each semester desperately trying to prove they aren’t worrywarts they actually are. And, largely speaking, much as Togashi allowed Beneki and Yoshitsune to pass after one beat the other, most of us maintain the ruse sufficiently so that we make it to the next semester. Midterms be their name and case in point is the afore-mentioned display before me.
From undergrads to creaking graduate students, the COM lounge is concentrated essence of student life. As I said, campus rituals undergo a metamorphosis and November is when they happen, but before anyone condemns my fellow sufferers for the neuroses, let me say in our defense that I truly believe this transformation is only experienced by Boston University’s more serious students. After all, immunity seems to extend only to those nearer Mary Ann’s and under the wicked spell of Boston College’s immoral polity.
Physically, midterms have the same effect on students regardless of what degree they are in pursuit of. Bags appear under eyes with each passing day, growing larger, longer, darker. Mentally, moods follow suit, faltering and growing darker themselves. Adult beverage orders made in places not affiliated with the University whatsoever that were initially based on gastronomic principle sink to bases of cost and percentage. Really, the only difference between undergraduates and grad students lies in how each deals with the inherent stresses of the interregnum twixt midterms and finals.
Although it was several moons ago, I do have a vague memory of my undergraduacy at Tufts, therefore allowing me an appreciation of the means by which today’s young people cope with the trials and tribulations of exams. As it was with me in my time, stress in the undergraduate leads directly to an increase in diastolic pressure. Masculine boasts of various feats of strength then become increasingly frantic, while subjects of feminine shrieks of excitement become increasingly superficial. Granted, I never squealed with girlish delight over anything (save Hanson, but that was only once) but my contemporaries did and I certainly blew my own horn over my physical prowess. (I once lifted a Toyota Corolla, so it wasn’t totally without merit.)
Speaking of sanity, that’ what separates undergraduates from graduates, specifically in that as graduate students, we’ve lost ours. I’m not sure where I heard it, but a recent study ranked universities by the number of billionaire graduates. As you might expect, Harvard was number one, but number two was no university at all. If we really wanted to be the next François Pinault or Sheldon Adelson, we should’ve stopped going to school a long time ago. Yet here we are, like a bunch of sheepskin-addled shermheads, clutching with one hand the largest coffee money can buy and with the other either the nearest steady object or, failing that, our foreheads.
But again, I’m merely an amateur observationalist of campus society. Those who come and go from my own personal Luxembourg leave indelible marks on the place, of which I merely report. Once having done that, though, we turn back to Thomas Hood and his ode to somnolence: “O bed! O bed! Delicious bed! The heaven upon earth to the weary head.” I hear the pillows at Neville Manor are wonderfully soft.